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30-10-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Cheese has neutral effect on blood lipids


Free abstract

MedWire News: Study findings suggest that eating large amounts of cheese lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations compared with consumption of butter with an equal fat content, and does not increase cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk markers compared with a habitual diet.

These findings suggest that dietary advice regarding the intake of full-fat cheese by persons with hypercholesterolemia "may need to be revised," comment Julie Hjerpsted (University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark) and colleagues in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Hjerpsted and team compared the effects cheese and butter intakes, with equal fat contents, and a habitual diet alone (run-in) on fasting serum lipids, namely total, LDL, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

A total of 49 participants were included in the randomized crossover intervention, with a 2-week run-in period of habitual diet. The two intervention periods lasted for 6 weeks each and were separated by a washout period of 2 weeks or more consuming a habitual diet.

The participants were provided with hard cheese or salted butter, which substituted part of their daily diet and replaced approximately 13% of energy from their daily fat intake. They were instructed not to consume other dairy products other than a maximum of 6 cL of low-fat milk per day.

After 6 weeks, cheese intake resulted in total and LDL cholesterol concentrations that were 5.7% and 6.9% lower compared with butter intake. In addition, cheese consumption resulted in a significant decrease in HDL cholesterol compared with butter consumption.

The ratio of total/HDL cholesterol did not differ significantly between the run-in and two experimental stages of the study. Similarly, plasma triglyceride concentrations did not differ between the cheese and butter stages; however, they were significantly higher after the butter intervention than a habitual diet alone.

Of interest, writes the team, consumption of cheese did not result in higher total and LDL cholesterol concentrations or lower HDL cholesterol concentrations when compared with the habitual diet. Conversely, butter consumption resulted in significantly higher total and LDL cholesterol concentrations than a habitual diet alone.

The researchers say that the reasons for this neutral effect of cheese on blood lipids "remains unknown."

"One possible explanation may be the effect of the high content of calcium in cheese", they say. Indeed, previous studies in animals and humans have shown an increased excretion of fat in feces with intake of calcium.

"The underlying mechanisms behind this neutral effect of cheese intake on cholesterol concentrations still need to be elucidated," concludes the team.

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By Nikki Withers